SAND AND SEA
they’ll come up and bump into something and turn around
or see something there they don’t like and return to the
ocean. That’s burning up a bit of their energy that they could
be using to produce more eggs.”
The imprints that sea turtles leave in the sand resemble tire
tracks. Area scientists can also identify the type of sea turtle
by closely examining their particular markings.
“As turtles drag their body, they have different markings
that they leave behind,” Bergman explains. “We know that
loggerheads walk with one flipper, then the other. Green sea
turtles walk with both flippers at the same time, like a breaststroke.
They also have a bit of a longer tail, so they’re leaving
another mark in the sand.”
When the embryo is fully developed and ready to hatch, it
will use its egg tooth on its snout to hammer the egg open.
“When they break through and get out of the egg, they’ll
start to straighten out and absorb some of the nutrients in
their yolk sac,” Guertin explains. “Over the next day or two,
they will make their way to the surface. They’re climbing
over one another and over the egg shells. And what that does
is it gets the sand above them to trickle down, so they can
slowly make their way to the surface.”
A nighttime trigger occurs where the cooling of sand causes
them to rise to the surface. The boil of hatchlings pours from
the nest as they make a mad dash to the water.
Baby turtles have little time to waste to reach the ocean.
They rely on their senses of sight, smell, sound and touch to
crawl to the surf.
“They look for the lowest, brightest horizon,” Bergman
A juvenile green sea
turtle grazes on red algae
in a nearshore reef off the
coast of Florida.
OUR SEA TURTLES
says. “They listen and smell for the ocean and they can also
feel the ocean — the crashing waves — through the vibration
of the sand.”
While they’re crawling their way to the water, they have to
be on the lookout for predators such as ghost crabs, raccoons,
birds and domestic animals. Artificial lighting is another big
threat that can cause them to become disoriented.
“What we see a lot on our developed Florida beaches are